Balanced Pitt takes care of sluggish UVA, 31-14

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi finds every opportunity he can to talk about his team’s youth, often stressing that building a program is a process and as difficult as the growing pains may seem at the time, a tangible payoff awaits if you simply keep at it.

The proof came to life across four soggy quarters at Heinz Field on Saturday, as the Panthers relied heavily on running backs Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison and a rapidly improving defense in a 31-14 victory over Virginia.

“They’re still puppies,” Narduzzi joked about a defense that didn’t have a single senior starter. “They don’t bark real loud right now. They growl a little bit.”

More than enough, actually, to beat the suddenly reeling Cavaliers.

Pitt (4-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) stopped Virginia four times on fourth down, collected three sacks and never trailed while winning its second straight. Two weeks after the season appeared to be at a tipping point following a home loss to North Carolina State that dropped them to 2-5, the Panthers head to November with a very real chance to extend their decade-long streak of reaching a bowl game.

“We all got together and said, ‘Hey, there’s still a lot of season left, we’re still bowl eligible,’ “That’s the biggest thing right now.”